The West

Women's safety advocates and the Opposition have called for the imminent flood of new taxi drivers on to Perth streets to be screened and trained properly so they do not compound the city's rogue cabbie problem.

After four drivers were charged in the space of a week over sexual assaults and threats against passengers, Transport Minister Troy Buswell took the extraordinary step in February of warning women not to catch taxis alone.

Yesterday, his announcement of the staged release of 300 new taxi plates led the crime victim support group Angelhands to seek assurances that the integrity of the new drivers would be of the highest standard.

"As part of crime prevention, good screening is essential as well as training on how to behave appropriately when you've got people who are intoxicated in your car," director Ann O'Neill said.

Women's Council for Family and Domestic Violence Services vice-chairwoman Anne Moore said while it was important to meet the demand for taxis, a safe journey had to be top priority.

"It should be the right of anyone to get a cab and expect to be safe," she said.

"The industry has to have a really good look at who has been offered plates and who is letting other people drive their taxis."

Shadow transport minister Ken Travers said there was no point releasing new taxi plates if driver standards had not been lifted.

"It is a small minority of drivers that is the problem but there is clearly a rogue element in the industry and we can't just release the plates without fixing that problem or we run the risk of letting another rogue group in," he said.

Mr Buswell said the Government was focused on improving safety, availability and service.

"We are currently working with the industry to look at what we can do around improving training, driver entry and monitoring and driver performance," he said.

Mr Buswell said 30 new full-time taxi plates would be released this week to reduce the number of passengers not being picked up after ordering a cab.

The West Australian

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